Back to Top I did the work, yes, but I couldn't have done it on my own… - The Ottawa Hospital

I did the work, yes, but I couldn’t have done it on my own…


David and team“On August 6th, 1973, early in the morning, I was born. Little did everyone know, I wasn’t just born with two arms and two legs, but a cyst in my skull. It was small, but it was there. This would prove to be a ticket to adventures nearly 38 years later.

I spent the first eight years of my life growing up in Carp, just outside of Kanata, but far enough from anywhere with tall buildings to be “the countryside”. When I was in grade 3, we moved to Ottawa South (now Old Ottawa South) where I’d spend much of my time growing into an adult. All the while the cyst in my head was growing. My interest in comic books and hopefully, one day, illustrating comic books grew as well.

After eleven years of that, I applied at the Silver Snail Comics store and stayed there for nearly fourteen years, until I had my first seizure. That was me redeeming the coupon I’d held for decades in my head for unpleasant action but ultimately a triumphant rebirth and reinvention of myself.

During my ten-and-a-half month stay in hospital I had my cyst drained, underwent dozens of tests of various sorts, found out I have an adverse reaction to Heparin (a blood thinner that gives me blood clots) which lead to me losing both feet, then being given the direction and invaluable help needed to discover the strength of body and spirit to learn to walk on two feet and to love myself more than I ever had with a complete body.

The [Ottawa Hospital] Rehab Centre is staffed by some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. They all are well educated and lengthily experienced in their disciplines and every last one of them, including many of the patients, contributed greatly to my progress. I’ve been told that I walk “quite convincingly”. I correct people when they say that by responding, “I’ve been trained to walk this well. I did the work, yes, but I couldn’t have done it on my own”.

My life, now, is better than it was before. Moving around the world on two feet is a treasure I’ve earned where before it was a necessary labour. Going about my daily business is a new adventure and there’s always something new to be experienced, learned or solved. I’ve learned how important all my friends truly are and how normal I can feel, which is far more normal than I felt before. I now know I have something good and positive to contribute to the world and it isn’t what I thought it was. Or, it isn’t what I thought it should be, over a year ago. I can be a positive example to others, no matter their level of ability, usually leaving them with a smile on their face and a laugh or two shared between two people both discovering they’re stronger than they had previously believed themselves to be.

It’s a part of learning to embrace the adventure of trying something very big and quite scary, but riddled with the need for growth and a new love for life’s more interesting moments.

At first I was terrified [to be discharged from The Ottawa Hospital Rehab Centre]. I’ve been anxious for more than a month, now, about the great unplanned and nebulous life beyond the protective shell of the [Ottawa Hospital] Rehab Centre. After bumping around this house and the outside world for a short while, I see, more clearly than I had imagined, how I’ve been given the keys to various doorways…that I’d been taught how to use the various keys I didn’t realize, previously, I’d already owned. There are still a number, a large number of obstacles for a thirty-eight year old man restarting his life, but now they have been exposed as challenges, not something insurmountable, as I’d once thought them to be. It all became a long and incredible experience that has led me to a revitalized life full of new dreams. I can’t possibly thank them [The Ottawa Hospital Rehab Centre staff] all enough for what they’ve given to me and helped me to discover within myself.”

Dave Russell


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